Saturday, March 12, 2005

VDH Looks Back

Victor Davis Hanson is in top form with his Friday column for National Review Online. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, when seemingly every terrorist car bomb elicits shouts of "quagmire", Dr. Hanson's sense of historical perspective and ability to see the big picture are especially welcome. His latest piece is no exception:

Without much appreciation that error is the stuff of war, that by any historical benchmark the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein was nothing short of miraculous, that our ongoing assessments of success and failure changed hourly within the fluid 24-hour newscycle, or that acrimonious hindsight was often used to save face about earlier wrongheaded pronouncements, we continued to tally up the "I told you so's."

Lapses were, of course, numerous and easy to spot from our armchairs in America the morning after — laxity in securing borders and arms depots and reforming the Iraqi army, a too-prominent televised American profile from the Green Zone, tardiness in elections, too large and plodding an interim American bureaucracy, slowness in dispersing allotted aid, the April pullback from Fallujah, and so on. Add in Abu Ghraib, plus Syria's and Iran's agents and subsidies, and the reconstruction proved more difficult than the three-week victory might otherwise have presaged.

Many erstwhile supporters from the boomer generation — one that is more utopian and therapeutic than practical and tragic — simply bailed on the entire enterprise. They would not return until the successful elections on January 30 and the amazing aftershocks throughout the Middle East convinced them that their continued hypercriticism might leave them on the very wrong side of history.

Lost in all this self-examination and lamentation was any appreciation for the extraordinary things that went right — often against overwhelming odds and in the face of sharp criticism and mistrust. In the past, I have cited the ostracism of Yasser Arafat and the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia — both controversial at the time — as key events that began to change the calculus of the Middle East in our favor. But there were other developments that are likewise scarcely mentioned today that have made all the difference between sure failure and our present achievement.

A Look Back: Turning points since September 11


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